I read an interesting blog entry over at Shannon Hale’s blog about ratings for books which got me thinking about how I choose my rating. Mostly it got me thinking about whether I should give it any kind of numeric rating at all and just leave it to the review.
Hale asked some questions at the end and even though the post is a bit old, I thought seeing as I’m a fairly new blog, just leaving its nest I though I’d answer them.
1. Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?
It makes me be a less passive reader. Before I joined Goodreads I always used to keep a hand written log of books I read – I gave them a star rating and a short review – usually a few lines. Now, since joining Goodreads I promised myself to review every book I read – more then a paragraph. Knowing others would be reading them I put more effort into them.
Reviewing a book is part of the reading process for me, it helps me to digest a book and I think it is very important to do so. Otherwise I am just reading it and then what happens to the book? It disappears to the back of my memory. That’s why I started making a log of books in the first place because it meant that I would remember each book I read. After a few years, looking back through it, even though much was illegible scrawl it really helped because I could see that – yes I liked that book and I could read what I liked about that book. There were my initial thoughts written down straight after finishing and it is that little bit of a memory I might have otherwise forgotten.
Writing reviews for Goodreads though, and now this blog has made me a more active reader – I am thinking about what I would like to mention in my review as I read, I am trying to notice more things and digest my feelings. I want to be involved in my reading, in the books that I read. It greatly effects how I read.
2. Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?
I usually do have a rating playing at the back of my mind, maybe this does distract me from reading it if I’m constantly thinking about how good it is (or isn’t)? I think it is harder to simply enjoy a book now because I feel that I have to justify it afterwards.
3. Does knowing you'll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?
Hmm, yes and no. I don’t choose not to read a book because I don’t want to review it, or because I want to review it in particular, but being more involved in the books I am reading does make me want to read different kinds of books and makes me less patient with certain types of fiction I might have read before I started reviewing. I like more involving books in the recent years.
Thinking more about it, looking back I have picked up less dud books – maybe this is from reading reviews and also, maybe it is because I just enjoy books more now because I put more effort into reading them.
4. Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?
I don’t think so. It does make me reflect more, but I wouldn’t say it changes how I felt. Reading other people’s reviews might change how I feel – especially if they noticed something I did not which may change my entire outlook on the book.
5. What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?
I have always assigned a rating even before I declared it to the world. I find other people’s ratings of interest and use myself and now that I’m ‘declaring it to the world’ I feel like I’m a much more active reader. Reading isn’t about locking yourself away in a dark room with a light – it’s as social as many other past times and it is good to be able to share your experiences and opinions with others.
I don’t think that ratings are on their own useful, which makes me wonder if I should use a numerical rating on this blog? On websites like Amazon and Goodreads it is much easier to put the ratings together as a whole – and see your friends’ ratings alongside each other.
On a personal level, a numerical rating gives me closure and I like looking back some years later and seeing how much I liked it. A rating is like a place mat in my memory.
Are numerical ratings on blogs as useful as they might be on Amazon or websites like Goodreads?
6. If you review a book but don't rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?
My role as a reviewer – difficult one. Am I a reviewer? I consider myself more a reader then a reviewer. I just happen to write a review afterwards. Reviews are more important then ratings. Everyone will have different ideas on the value of each star and the meaning. I explain what mine mean here.
I have always found it difficult whether to rate between how much I enjoyed a book and literary merit. Should I detract a star because I thought it was badly written in parts even though I really enjoyed it or should I not? Bad, irritating clumsy writing does bother me but I can look over it depending on other factors.
I personally love really good characters and so I lean more towards more character driven books then anything else.
Writing this entry makes me think of a much more simpler question to ask myself:
Why do I read?
- To learn something different?
I think it is a mix of all of these – but mostly because I find reading entertaining. The days of required reading are over – I choose what books I read to simply enjoy them. I read so I can be taken out of my world and taken into another one – into a life I don’t know about to learn about them. Books can take you back, and forwards through time – they also help you understand different people and put you in someone else’s shoes so you can share their experiences – and not be confined to your own. You can learn so much from reading books – I mean fiction, not just non-fiction.
I do not read a book simply for its literary worth – that isn’t to say of course, that I’m not able to appreciate it. So overall, I think I rate on how much I enjoyed a book rather then trying to define it by its literary merits.
I still find it hard to rate though – it’s so very subjective and sometimes it just doesn’t reflect at all how I felt. Sometimes I want to change the rating of a previous review because of a more recent one. Should ratings stick once you’ve made them – at the moment I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy and so they are comparing to each other in my head. I find my scales are being readjusted in my head. Maybe I need to award more then five stars or will that make it harder still?
How does everyone else rate? What kind of a scale do you use and what does each actually mean to you? What do you look for in reviews and how does the rating affect you?